Wright v. Georgia

PETITIONER: Nathaniel Wright et al.
RESPONDENT: Georgia
LOCATION: Beaumont Mills

DOCKET NO.: 68
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Georgia

CITATION: 373 US 284 (1963)
ARGUED: Nov 07, 1962
DECIDED: May 20, 1963

ADVOCATES:
James M. Nabritt III - for the petitioners
Sylvan A. Garfunkel - Assistant Solicitor General of Georgia, for the respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Wright v. Georgia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 07, 1962 in Wright v. Georgia

Earl Warren:

Number 68, Nathaniel Wright, et al., Petitioners, versus Georgia.

Mr. Nabrit.

James M. Nabrit, III,:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is on somewhat unlikely six cases which have preceded it this week and that here, arrest have been made for conduct on city property, city park property, managed by a city department but it is similar to those other six cases.

And that here again, the police are engaged in enforcing segregation customs as if they were an extension of or part of the law.

This case is before the Court on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Georgia brought by six young Negro men from Savannah, who were convicted of the crime of unlawful assembly under Section 26-5301 of Georgia Code, that statute which appears on page 2 of our brief punishes any two or more person who assemble and this is the key language, assemble for the purpose of disturbing the public peace or committing any unlawful act and fails to disperse on the command of peace officers, etcetera.

The petitioners were charged under an accusation filed substantially in the statutory language for assembling at Daffin Park in Savannah, Georgia for the purpose of disturbing the public peace.

No reference was made in the accusation to the second clause relating to committing any unlawful act.

And petitioners were convicted in the City Court of Savannah by a jury and sentenced to fines or to imprisonment in default of payment of the fines.

On appeal, their convictions were affirmed by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

In the courts below and here, we contend the petitioners have asserted due process claims that they were convicted without evidence of their guilt and convicted under a vague statute which denied them due process.

I think it's important to look at the facts in some detail because of the no evidence claim.

The four witnesses testified at the trial in the state court.

Two of them were -- only two of them were witnesses to the incident which led to the arrest.

They were the two arresting officers.

The other two people who have testified were police sergeant who came upon the scene after the arrest had been made and the head of the city park department who wasn't there at all.

It had no contact with the petitioners whether a witness to the incident.

He didn't know about it until after.

So that the facts I'm giving you, the arresting officers' version of what transpired and I submit that it demonstrates completely that the petitioners are guilty of no criminal acts of any kind.

Now, on January 23rd, 1961 at about two o'clock in the afternoon, police officers Thompson and Hillers were on duty in Daffin Park which is a 50-acre recreational park which as I have said is managed and operated by the City of Savannah.

They were in their currently --

Hugo L. Black:

This is owned and operated by the City of Savannah?

James M. Nabrit, III,:

I understand that that is the fact, Your Honor, and that there's no dispute about that.

The testimony of the park manager at page -- beginning at the bottom of page 42, indicates that he is the superintendent of the recreational department of the city and as superintendent, he is overall the pick playgrounds in the city and later on in his testimony, he lists them and mentions the Daffin Park.

There's no explicit statement about ownership but it's never been contested.

And I'm sure that the city attorneys will confirm that.

Now, where officers Thompson and Hillers were approached by a person who was identified only in the record as a white lady, and she is, according to Officer Thompson's testimony supposed have told them that there were colored people playing basketball in the park.

And Officer Thompson made it clear that as soon as he heard this, he pres -- he and his fellow officer preceded immediately to the basketball court.

He said, “I did not ask this white lady how old these people were.

As soon as I found out these were colored people, I immediately went there.”